As winter sets in and the softness of new snow blesses the ground we deliberately settle back into a slower pace. Unlike COVID-19 where there was no choice about pace, place or being, we either willingly or unwillingly had to gradually accept our environments as they presented themselves to us.

We have all heard by now that the virus was a blessing in many respects because it brought out what is wrong with our environments, governments, and ethical and moral values. Due to our shared awareness on this topic we now have a common ground that looks at life and death in a whole new way.

Think about and remember the spiritual protectors among Indigenous people who respected the wrathfulness of COVID-19 and put up resistance to exposures of the virus contamination. They brought human awareness to the individual rights to live and die disease free.

We have witnessed roadblocks, closed reservation borders, government and political interventions, protests, tribal data collection, food and water distributions, increased health prevention, medical support, masking and social distancing. More importantly and long lasting was the ceremonial acknowledgements and prayers that assisted those who were sick and those who crossed over. The spiritual consciousness of these efforts continues and keep us in the here and now and most certainly will accompany us into the future.

Most if not all Indigenous nations have lost a considerable number of people this year. Among those are elders, spiritual leaders, ceremonial leaders, healers, teachers, cultural ambassadors, significant family members -- old and young -- and the funerals and burials are still on-going.

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What this means for the future is identifying our communities in a whole new way using our sensibilities and appreciating each and every person that is part of our lives.

What many of us have learned is that Zoom and the internet is not a replacement for the warmth of human touch and love, it is a window that allows us to look out and see others whom we would normally have contact with. In a way, our senses have been minimized because with the internet we are relying mostly on our sight, speech and sound. Our touch, feelings and deeper consciousness is not utilized to the extent that it normally would be. In order to build and develop our capacities with technology it will require us to look at our individual selves very differently.

Cyberspace is, after all, like any other space: empty yet vibrant with our consciousness, it allows us to express our intent. As we begin to identify our new technological boundaries, remember that the elements that make up these spaces consist of earth, wind, fire, water and consciousness. These same elements are also part of our human make-up. We are all connected by natural law. May I suggest that we simplify our lives and minimize our attachments. At this time of great unknowns the greatest gift we can give is our energy, by finding ways to give back to the earth and our creation as we look forward to ending suffering.

Vivian Delgado is a professor of Native American studies at Bemidji State University.